Teresa of Ávila

Saint Teresa of Ávila
Peter Paul Rubens 138.jpg
Saint Teresa of Ávila by Peter Paul Rubens
Virgin, Mystic, Ecstatic, Doctor of the Church
Born (1515-03-28)28 March 1515
Gotarrendura, Ávila, Crown of Castile (today Spain)
Died 4 October 1582(1582-10-04) (aged 67) [1]
Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Lutheran Church [2]
Anglican Communion [3] [4]
Beatified 24 April 1614, Rome by Pope Paul V
Canonized 12 March 1622, Rome by Pope Gregory XV
Major shrine Convent of the Annunciation, Alba de Tormes, Spain
Feast 15 September
Attributes Habit of the goddess of Monteverdi Discalced Carmelites, Book and Quill, arrow-pierced heart
Patronage Bodily illnesses; headaches; chess; lacemakers; laceworkers; loss of parents; people in need of grace; people in religious orders; people ridiculed for their piety; Požega, Croatia; sick people; sickness; Spain; Talisay City, Cebu

Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun and author during the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer in the Carmelite Order of her time and the movement she initiated, later joined by Saint John of the Cross, eventually led to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites, though neither she nor John were alive when the two orders separated.

In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, and on 27 September 1970 was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. [5] Her books, which include her autobiography (The Life of Teresa of Jesus) and her seminal work El Castillo Interior (trans.: The Interior Castle), are an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices. She also wrote Camino de Perfección (trans.: The Way of Perfection).

After her death, Saint Teresa was considered a candidate to become a national patron saint in Spain. A Santero image of the Immaculate Conception of El Viejo, said to have been sent with one of her brothers to Peru, Canonically crowned by Pope John Paul II on 28 December 1989 at the Shrine of El Viejo. [6] Pious Catholic beliefs also associate Saint Teresa with the Infant Jesus of Prague with claims of former ownership and devotion.

Early life

Teresa of Avila was born in 1515 in Gotarrendura, in the province of Ávila, Spain. Her paternal grandfather, Juan Sánchez de Toledo, was a marrano (Jewish convert to Christianity) and was condemned by the Spanish Inquisition for allegedly returning to the Jewish faith. Her father, Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda, bought a knighthood and successfully assimilated into Christian society. Teresa's mother, Beatriz de Ahumada y Cuevas, [7] was especially keen to raise her daughter as a pious Christian. Teresa was fascinated by accounts of the lives of the saints, and ran away from home at age seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. Her uncle stopped them as he was returning to the town, having spotted the two outside the town walls. [8]

When Teresa was 14 her mother died, leaving Teresa grief-stricken. This prompted her to embrace a deeper devotion to the Virgin Mary as her spiritual mother. Teresa was also enamored of popular fiction, which at the time was primarily medieval tales of knighthood) and works about caring for one's appearance. [9] [10] Teresa was sent for her education to the Augustinian nuns at Ávila. [11]

In the monastery ("cloister" is an area where only monastics have access), she suffered greatly from illness. Early in her sickness, she experienced periods of religious ecstasy through the use of the devotional book Tercer abecedario espiritual, translated as the Third Spiritual Alphabet (published in 1527 and written by Francisco de Osuna). This work, following the example of similar writings of medieval mystics, consisted of directions for examinations of conscience and for spiritual self-concentration and inner contemplation (known in mystical nomenclature as oratio recollectionis or oratio mentalis). She also employed other mystical ascetic works such as the Tractatus de oratione et meditatione of Saint Peter of Alcantara, and perhaps many of those upon which Saint Ignatius of Loyola based his Spiritual Exercises and possibly the Spiritual Exercises themselves.

She claimed that during her illness she rose from the lowest stage, "recollection", to the "devotions of silence" or even to the "devotions of ecstasy", which was one of perfect union with God (see § Mysticism). During this final stage, she said she frequently experienced a rich "blessing of tears." As the Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sin became clear to her, she says she came to understand the awful terror of sin and the inherent nature of original sin. She also became conscious of her own natural impotence in confronting sin, and the necessity of absolute subjection to God.

Around 1556, various friends suggested that her newfound knowledge was diabolical, not divine. She began to inflict various tortures and mortifications of the flesh upon herself. But her confessor, the Jesuit Saint Francis Borgia, reassured her of the divine inspiration of her thoughts. On St. Peter's Day in 1559, Teresa became firmly convinced that Jesus Christ presented himself to her in bodily form, though invisible. These visions lasted almost uninterrupted for more than two years. In another vision, a seraph [12] drove the fiery point of a golden lance repeatedly through her heart, causing an ineffable spiritual-bodily pain.

I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it...

This vision was the inspiration for one of Bernini's most famous works, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa at Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome.

The memory of this episode served as an inspiration throughout the rest of her life, and motivated her lifelong imitation of the life and suffering of Jesus, epitomized in the motto usually associated with her: Lord, either let me suffer or let me die.

Other Languages
Aymar aru: Teresa de Ávila
Bân-lâm-gú: Ávila ê Teresa
беларуская: Тэрэза Авільская
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Тэрэза ад Езуса
български: Тереза Авилска
Esperanto: Tereza el Avilo
Bahasa Indonesia: Teresa dari Ávila
interlingua: Teresa de Ávila
italiano: Teresa d'Ávila
Kiswahili: Teresa wa Yesu
lumbaart: Teresa d'Àvila
Piemontèis: Teresa ëd Gesù
português: Teresa de Ávila
Runa Simi: Teresa de Jesús
Simple English: Teresa of Ávila
slovenčina: Terézia z Ávily
slovenščina: Terezija Avilska
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Terezija Avilska
Türkçe: Avilalı Teresa
українська: Тереза Авільська
Tiếng Việt: Têrêsa thành Ávila